What Neuroscience Can't Tell Us About Love
Is neural signature going to tell you how much in love you are? Probably not.
Kayt is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the Author's Guild and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). She has recently returned to the United States after living abroad for six years and has just published her first book, DIRTY MINDS: HOW OUR BRAINS INFLUENCE LOVE, SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS, an exploration of the neurobiology of love (Free Press, 2012).
Kayt Sukel's writing credits include personal essays in the Washington Post, American Baby, the Bark, USAToday, Literary Mama and the Christian Science Monitor as well as articles on a variety of subjects for the Atlantic Monthly, Parenting, Cerebrum, BrainWork and American Baby magazines. She blogs regularly about traveling on the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award winning travel blog, Travel Savvy Mom; and science, love and life at the Houston Chronicle's Hearts and Minds blog.
You can often find her oversharing on Twitter as @kaytsukel.
The neuroimaging studies of love just have the participants look at a photo of their beloved. And anybody who’s in a relationship does a lot more than looking, and in fact, you may not always feel so sweet about your partner, even though you may be very much in love with them.
So, what does looking at a picture tell you? It doesn’t tell you much necessarily about the state of your relationship, although there was one journalist who did one of the studies and then wrote the headline, “FMRI proves I’m in love with my wife.” That’s not exactly it. It shows that when you have passionate love, there are certain areas of the brain that are correlated to that; it has a neural signature. Is it going to tell you how much in love you are? Probably not.
I don’t know that the MRI can answer the question whether certain people can love more than others. Certain people may be able to summon, for whatever reason, enough feelings to get all that blood rushing in the brain, but does that mean that they love more, that they give more in relationships, that they’re a better partner? We can’t make that leap.
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